Refugees at the refugee settlement at Paint City Bellville where they have been housed for the duration of the lockdown. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency
Refugees at the refugee settlement at Paint City Bellville where they have been housed for the duration of the lockdown. File Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency

Clock ticking for Cape refugees to either reintegrate or be deported

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Apr 21, 2021

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Cape Town - The clock is ticking for the former Green Market Square refugees currently accommodated at Paint City and Wingfield temporary sites in Cape Town.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has given them until Friday, April 30, to either reintegrate into South African communities or be deported.

Motsoaledi gave the ultimatum during a media briefing about efforts being made to resolve the issue by his department in conjunction with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the provincial government and the City.

He said that he met Premier Alan Winde and officials from the City last week and the provincial government had agreed to take over the burden of paying for the hosting of the refugees at the two Cape Town refugee shelter sites for the next two weeks.

This decision was made after the City said it would no longer do so following problems with the auditor-general over its spending on the refugees.

Motsoaledi said 41 people from among the Green Market Square refugees had been deported as a result of leading “a rebellion” in which they misled their fellow refugees that the protest in Green Market Square would guarantee them a passage to Canada.

“These people who fashioned themselves as fighting for a just cause included refugee faction leaders Aline Bukuru, who was deported two weeks ago, and Papy Sukami from the opposing faction, who was deported on the same day.”

Deported refugee leader Aline Bukuru Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)

Motsoaledi said Bukuru’s husband, JP Balous, who is still in jail facing various charges, including malicious damage to property and assault, would be deported after the law had taken its course.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR has worked out a deal with the refugees in which those who choose to be reintegrated into South African communities would have to find themselves accommodation for which the UN will pay the first three months of rent.

As for those refugees who choose to be repatriated to their home countries, the IOM has said it will pay for airline tickets. Already 121 refugees have taken up the repatriation offer and 390 have been reintegrated into committees.

Human rights attorney and Sonke Gender Justice spokesperson Namuma Mulindi said: “There is concern over the two-week time period that has been set for the relocation and repatriation of the asylum seekers and refugees. Will this be enough time?”

With regards to the deal where refugees find accommodation and the UN pays the first three months, Mulindi said: “This is a good deal on the face of it but it overlooks the current underlying problem of how migrants are struggling to secure accommodation for lack of documentation.”

She said the lack of documentation has been further exacerbated during the lockdown period where landlords are unaware of the blanket extension of permits.

Chairperson of the portfolio committee on home affairs, Bongani Bongo, said he would request a report upon the expiry of the deadline for the refugees to reintegrate or be deported.

Cape Argus

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